The world’s largest continent has a lot to offer — you could spend a whole lifetime trying to explore Asia and still come up short. That’s why this list of top places to visit in Asia goes beyond staples like Japan and Bali, and gives you a fuller sense of the diversity of the continent.
I’ve asked travel bloggers from around the world to help me pick the top places to visit in Asia for 2018, and the list they came up with isn’t what you might expect. For one thing, with two entries on the list, Kazakhstan is poised to be a hot travel destination in Asia next year. Yes, you heard that right: 2018 is the year to explore Kazakhstan (and, no, it’s nothing like Borat would have you think).
But whether you’d rather spend your Asian vacation lounging on a beach, dancing away the night in a city, or riding horseback through the steppe, we’ve got you covered with the top travel spots in Asia.
This is the fifth in a series on the Best Places to Travel in 2018 for each continent around the globe. So be sure you see the rest of the series by liking Travel Lemming on Facebook or signing up for email updates at the end of the post!
2018’s Top Places to Visit in Asia for Trendsetters
Nepal was once a rising star on the tourist scene, fast on its way to becoming one of the best tourist places in Asia. But that changed tragically when an earthquake devastated the country in April 2015, and lead many many tourists to erase it from their list of Asia destinations. But, two years later, the country is slowly recovering from the tragedy. And Nepal still offers tourists incredible history, welcoming culture, and unparalleled hiking and trekking opportunities. Moreover, Nepal is one of the best value travel destinations on the planet — it’s possible for the frugal visitor to get by on as little as $15 per day here.
For many, the highlight of a visit to Nepal is one of the country’s two famous treks: the Annapurna Circuit and the Everest Base Camp trek. But there are many other trekking routes through the country, supported by a network of teahouses that take in weary hikers for the evening. It’s such a great place for trekking, that you can even go trekking with kids in Nepal. And Nepal also offers a lot besides just hiking. From visiting wildlife in the country’s southern jungles to absorbing the chaotic pace of life in the capital city of Kathmandu, there is something for everyone in Nepal.
Kazakhstan’s capital Astana surprises tourists in many ways. While many people relate Kazakhstan to vast wilderness and no man’s land inhabited by nomads, this is definitely not true for Astana. The boosting and modern metropolis, with its surreal and futuristic architecture and buildings, is worth a visit. It’s easy, safe and cheap to get around the city and you shouldn’t miss the view of the skyline from the Bayterek tower and a visit to the presidential palace. The National Museum of Kazakhstan is a must-visit to learn more about the country’s rich culture and history. Make sure to visit Astana – you won’t regret it and you will be surprised.
-Patrick from German Backpacker
A huge country nestled between two other huge territories, Russia and China, Mongolia is an uncovered gem that will steal the heart of any traveler who is looking for trekking, outdoor activities like riding horses, spending time in a nomadic village or being on the road surrounded by beautiful nature. One of the reasons why it has been off the beaten path so far, it is that is not easy to get to Mongolia because of lack of direct flights, it does not offer a seaside destination and winters are quite cold. Once you are aware of these limitations, plan accordingly and make your way to Ulaanbaatar, elect it as a base and start discovering the Gobi desert and the Gorkhi Terelj park before everyone else does.
-Ale from Foodmadics
Located in Central Asia, with a relatively young age, having only achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and opened to tourism just a couple of years ago, not many people know about a country named Kyrgyzstan. Furthermore, for some reason, the suffix -stan produces some fear in most people’s minds which, in my opinion, is totally wrong since, actually, -stan not only means ”land of” but also Kyrgyzstan is an extremely peaceful country where you can find the perfect balance between remoteness, authenticity and a relatively developed tourist infrastructure. From first-class class treks to stunning landscapes which easily rival the Himalaya or Patagonia, hospitable people and a very accessible nomadic culture, traveling to Kyrgyzstan is, definitely, something you will not want to miss in the next upcoming years.
-Joan from Against the Compass
This stunning mystical destination located near Guilin may not be as well known as The Great Wall of China, but the hundreds of beautiful karst mountain peaks make Yangshuo, China one of the more surreal spots in Asia to rock climb and capture stunning sunrise/ sunset shots. It currently caters to mostly domestic tourists, but its a growing destination, and has already been featured in the likes of National Geographic and The North Face. Note that you can also spot its iconic Li River in the 20 Yuan Bill.
-Lydia from Lydiascapes
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Thailand is famous — and has long been one of the top places to visit in Asia — but there are some places that are still wild and, luckily, Koh Phangan is still one of them. Despite the monthly influx of thousands of partiers to Had Rin beach for the famous Full Moon Party, the rest of the island of Koh Phangan is still not touristic as the nearby island Koh Samui, and people who live here are so genuine. Few of them speak English and prices are much cheaper than in the more popular nearby island of Koh Samui. Beaches, temples and wild nature everywhere, but within 2-3 years tourism will continue to grow very much. So, if you want to see the real Phangan, you should go now!
-Silvia from The Girl With the Suitcase (Italian language travel blog)
If Kazakhstan’s political capital Astana is like a version of Dubai on the steppe, then its cultural capital Almaty is more akin to Denver or Zurich — a gorgeous, easy-to-navigate metropolis nestled against stunning mountains. With the finest dining and nightlife in Central Asia, Almaty is a cosmopolitan destination that will surprise you at every turn. Its leafy green streets are lined with endless cafes welcoming visitors for a relaxing afternoon, while in the evenings the city’s modern nightclubs and bars light up the skyline.
But perhaps Almaty’s best feature is its proximity to the stunning Tian Shan mountain range. In just minutes you can leave the hustle of the city and find yourself surrounded by imposing mountain peaks on all sides, with nothing but the fauna and flora to keep you company. With day trips to stunning destinations like Big Almaty Lake and Charyn Canyon possible from the city, you won’t run out of things to do in Almaty. And with Kazakhstan recently removing its visa requirement for many foreign nationalities, Kazakhstan may become one of the top places to visit in Asia sooner than you might expect.
What do you think will be 2018’s Top Places to Visit in Asia?
Where will you be going in 2018? And what do you think will be the top places to visit in Asia next year?
And be sure to read the full series: Best Places to Travel in 2018
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